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Dot Inlays

The 12th Fret

Memorizing the name of the notes on the entire fretboard
can be a daunting task. A standard guitar has 21 or
more frets. That’s 126 or more frets to memorize…
or is it?

Realize that the 12th fret is the same note as
the open string
. This is called an octave. An octave
is the same note at a higher or lower pitch. The 12th
fret is always the same note as the string played
open. The 12th fret is usually marked by two dot inlays.

Every note after the 12th fret mirrors that of the
lower end of the fretboard. The 13th fret is the same
note as the 1st fret, the 14th fret is the same note
as the 2nd fret and so on. Draw an imaginary line at
the twelfth fret so you can see that the 12th fret up
is exactly the same notes as the lower part of the fretboard.

Matching The Dot Inlays

Here you can see the guitar fretboard cut in 2 pieces.
Laying them side by side you can see how they match
up perfectly. On the left is the open strings and first
11 frets. On the right is the 12th fret up with is the
exact same notes as the first picture. You can see how
the dot inlays match perfectly.

The 3rd fret dot inlay matches the dot inlay on the
15th fret. The dot inlay on the 5th fret matches the
one on the 17th fret. The dot inlay on the 7th fret
matches the one on the 19th fret. The dot inlay on the
9th fret matches the one on the 21st fret.

Dot Inlay Exercise

Here’s a great way to really drum the dot inlay system
in your head. On the high E string play the open string
then the octave at the 12th fret. Go up to the first
fret play that note and then play it’s octave at the
13th fret. Work your way all the way up the fretboard
until you run out of frets. Then do it with the other
strings. See tablature example below:

The exercise is performed on the high E string in the
audio example below:

Since the notes on the 12th fret and up mirror the
notes on the lower end of the fretboard you only need
to memorize 72 frets. That makes things a little easier,
don’t you think? Plus, realizing this will help you
read tab a lot faster. We hope you can now see how the
guitar’s dot inlay system works and how important it
is to utilize. In the next few segments you’ll learn
how to turn learning these 72 frets into child’s play.


If you have a 24 fret guitar, then you’ll have another
octave at the 24th fret (usually marked by another double
dot inlay).

Some guitar manufactures sometimes use different fretboard
inlays, but the dot inlay system discussed here is the
most common.